Even as the world is grappling with the new mutant strain of the coronavirus first identified in Britain and believed to be more contagious, at least 16 people who came to India from the UK in the past few days have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the authorities, eight people who came from or via the UK have tested positive in Amritsar, five in New Delhi, two in Kolkata and one in Chennai even though the government has asserted that there have been no confirmed instances of the mutant strain anywhere in India so far.
As a precautionary measure, the samples of those who tested positive have been sent to specialised labs to determine if the infection is from the mutant coronavirus while the authorities are also tracing every traveller from the UK in the last four weeks and recommending strict self-monitoring for those who have come in over the last two weeks.
The government has already placed a ban on the flights to and from the UK amid the increasing spread of the new strain of coronavirus from Tuesday midnight till December 31.
“Considering the prevailing situation in the UK, Indian govt has decided that all flights originating from the UK to India shall be temporarily suspended till 11:59 pm, 31st December. This suspension to start w.e.f. 11.59 pm, 22nd December,” Ministry of Civil Aviation said.
“As a measure of abundant precaution, passengers arriving from UK in all transit flights (flights that have taken off or flights which are reaching India before 22nd Dec at 11.59 pm) should be subject to mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival at airports,” it added.
The Maharashtra government had on Monday put in place stricter measures amidst the huge global scare over the new strain of Covid-19 virus detected in the United Kingdom.
All passengers coming from Europe and the Middle East will have to mandatorily undergo 15 days institutional quarantine. Passengers coming from other international destinations other than Europe and the Middle East will have to undergo home quarantine, said a source of the Maharashtra Government.
Additionally, from December 21, the state has made 14 days’ institutional quarantine compulsory for all travellers from the UK, Europe and the Middle East, as a precaution.
Maharashtra government has also made 14 days quarantine mandatory to all who are travelling from Europe and all Middle East countries.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced the move to impose the curfew from Tuesday night after conducting detailed deliberations with top officials of various departments here, said an official.
“We have to be extremely vigilant for the next 15 days. Accordingly, the curfew in all municipal areas shall be in force from 11 pm-6 am daily till January 5,” Thackeray said.
As many as 1,688 passengers arrived at the Mumbai international airport from the UK and other countries since Monday midnight and 745 of them were quarantined in the city, a civic official said on Wednesday.
Around 2,000 passengers were expected to land at the Mumbai airport in the last two days, but only 1,688 had landed as of Wednesday afternoon, said an official of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). As many as 745 of them were placed in institutional quarantine in Mumbai, he said, reported PTI.
Following Maharashtra, Karnataka government on Wednesday announced a night curfew in the state from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. till January 2 amid the new mutant strain of coronavirus.
Karnataka has become the second state after Maharashtra to announce restrictions as global concern grows over the new mutant strain of the contagious Covid-19 virus which was first found in the UK.
Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa said, “In view of the new strain of coronavirus, it has been decided to impose night curfew from today to January 2 between 10 PM to 6 AM. I request everyone to cooperate.”
The state government has announced that all the passengers coming from the UK will have to undergo Covid-19 RT-PCR tests within 72 hours.
Karnataka health minister Dr K Sudhakar said, “This (night curfew) has been done to prevent and contain the coronavirus strain found in the UK. We are also monitoring international passengers arriving in the state.”
When asked if Christmas celebration would be allowed health minister Dr K Sudhakar said, “Between December 23 and January 2, no event or festive celebration is allowed to take place after 10 pm. It applies to every kind of event.”
On Tuesday, Dr VK Paul, a member of government think-tank NITI Aayog said, “The new strain or mutation of coronavirus in the United Kingdom has not been seen in India, so far. As of now, it has no impact on the potential of vaccines being developed in our country and are available in other countries.”
“We can say that the virus has become super-spreader,” he added further.
Amid the reports of the spread of the virus, many European countries have banned flights to and from Britain.
Britain has warned this new strain of coronavirus was “out of control”, and imposed a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday.
India recorded 23,950 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours and the country’s total cases now stand at 1,00,99,066.
(With agency inputs)